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Reader Comments (36)

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 11:43AM Daverator said

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I wish that MMO betas still existed. You know where game aspects were created and refined, bugs squashed, and input heard.

Instead of the current version of MMO betas: Release the final product a few months early (still full of bugs) and make as big a PR event as possible. Finding the bugs to be patched a few months after release.

I also love the self fulfilling prophecy that they can't release information because it is over scrutinized. If you only release one relevant piece of information every 3 months, the only things people have to do is over-analyze the information. Now if you actually release information every week, including changes and updates to previous info, the intense over reading into info will diminish (not go away).

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 12:06PM Arkanaloth said

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@Daverator

nahh I have to disagree.. even with large annual informational releases the scrutiny is still every bit as heavy, it just happens on several aspects instead of just one. As for betas.. TOR is in closed beta already and has been since.. july or august (perhaps sooner but I personally know someone who was in testing group last summer) so they are indeed doing a true closed beta test at this time.

while the lack of information is agonizing to the community, it's better for the developers than releasing information and having to defend it or worse back-track on it due to system changes.
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Posted: Jan 14th 2011 3:03PM eyeball2452 said

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@Arkanaloth

"while the lack of information is agonizing to the community, it's better for the developers than releasing information and having to defend it or worse back-track on it due to system changes."

This is a common misconception that people keep repeating because it sounds right, but is not. Everyone loves to compare MMOs to WoW ... both the developers of TOR and Rift have done it recently. Blizzard does their closed betas without an NDA for many months and they seem to do just fine. If a company isn't releasing information about their game and hiding behind an NDA, it indicates a red flag to me. Cryptic is a good recent example of this. TR is the ultimate bust of great talking points and a 1 star game.
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 12:04PM Dumac said

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Im getting more and more aggravated that things as simple as talking about aspects of your game with the community you say you respect and appreciate are slaves to PR and marketing. Irony much?

Daverator is right about over-analyzing, particularly if you release the information with an attitude saying that its perfect and that nothing like it has been seen, when in fact both of those are fairly subjective opinions.

Bah.

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 12:09PM Greyhame said

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Games tend to go through phases of a lot of information, to nothing for a while, then a lot of information during development.

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 12:17PM wfseg said

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BioWare can take as long as they like to make sure SWTOR doesn't turn into another XIV debacle.

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 2:40PM SiML said

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@wfseg

Absolutely agree with you there. A lot riding on first impressions on the release of this much anticipated title.
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 12:24PM mfresen said

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I wish people treated games like movies: if you can find out some stuff about a movie before it releases: bully for you! But if you can't, it doesn't diminish your excitement for seeing the film when it releases. Consumers bluff when they claim they won't try something if they aren't sold ahead of time; developers should learn to call that bluff.

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 12:39PM Daverator said

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@mfresen

I think there is a lot more consumer investment in a game (especially MMO) than a movie.

To experience the new blockbuster film you need 10 bucks (15 if its in 3d) and 2-3 hours.

To experience the new game you will need $50-60 and 10-100 hours. Of course if its an MMO (as featured here) add an additional $15 every month, and tack the hours up to your desired setting (There are several that would be more adequately measured in months or years). So it is in many consumers opinions that they should have as much say as possible in influencing aspects of a game.

Now if they SHOULD, that of course is another debate all together.
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:20PM Lethality said

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@mfresen Well, the marketing machine for movies doesn't start 3+ years before they're released.

For whatever reason these publishers think they need to start REALLY early, which is what brings on the hype, scrutinization and frustration of future players.

But that's just it, and they have us right where they want us: Not a single one of is going to bail on the game just because of the lack of info being revealed. We'll all be future customers, no matter what they do before release.

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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:59PM mfresen said

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@Daverator I don't necessary agree with the premise that users need that sense of influence in order to feel justified in spending that kind of dough.

I've been playing games since the old-school Pong game for UHF TVs from Radio Shack, and this is a relatively new phenomenon, this crowdsourcing of game development.

I can understand why developers and publishers would want to test those waters early on, as the MMO industry was being invented, but the experiment has run amok. You cannot have consumers directing works of art as complex as a game; design by committee leaves everyone unhappy, because the feedback given is usually emotionally-driven and inaccurate, even internally inconsistent. It's madness to build to that spec.

When games were simply released and taken at face value, people still bought shit loads of games. Ask Nintendo how that works out for them now. Ask Sony. MMOs are not fundamentally different from all other video games -- they do not require a crowd's ridiculously unqualified input in order to be popular at launch, they only need to be good (and marketed appropriately, as with any other product, of course).
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 2:17PM mfresen said

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@Lethality I agree that the mistakes begin with the publishers and developers who mistakenly view this as a great way to market their games. As usual, it's about money. Not making money on the product, but vying for capital to produce a product before that product is providing returns. And that means it's a game of one monkey trying to convince another monkey to give him more bananas. A market is relatively rational and predictable compared to the game of internal politics and funding that plagues publishers and developers, respectively.

From the developer's perspective, having a very active community can help to secure funding -- beta tests and "tell us what you want!" threads are great ways to get registrations and posts. But it's a lazy tactic, and that's why it ultimately brings more woe upon a game than it does good, I believe.

From the publisher's perspective, getting early marketing out there and measuring the response is a good way to justify long term investments by their comptrollers (by different teams within the company, all vying for budget and staff, say, or from VC that keeps a smaller publisher afloat while waiting for a game to release).

It boils down to this, IMHO: MMO development cycles take too long and cost too much money. Unlike, say, a console game, one good MMO can dominate a market for years and years; the content doesn't run out. WoW is, of course, the best-known example of this. So there is no need for imitators; anyone who wants to make money will need to innovate immediately, pre-launch. That's a very costly market to be in. Unlike, say, cars, where you can have three companies making almost identical engines, but with very different body shapes -- that's relatively cheap to iterate on and differentiate on. Gameplay is the core product in the case of MMOs, however, and this is still a complex task for humans to iterate and improve upon continuously.

So game designers all sit down to design their "own" game, and ultimately wind up watering it down and creating WoW again, but from scratch, so as to completely overspend on a product that doesn't differentiate in any way, shape, or form from its primary competitor. F2P is the only way to get away with this tactic, because you differentiate on price.

Anyway, it's all a big catch 22. I understand why the game-makers do what they do, and I know that a commoditized version of satisfying games is probably a far piece off (they are art, you can't commoditize good art ... without AI assistance), and I doubt any of this will change any time soon. But one can dream that a studio like Funcom might come up with something novel based on their now-existing WoW-clone engines without having to spend so much money as to beggar a half-baked extended beta phase rife with player input and outrage. Secret World? We'll see. My understanding is that it has been constructed in relative darkness, which makes me hopeful. I feel the same way about World of Darkness.
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:05PM Bartlebe said

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When they're out of money or blown through to much.

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:11PM PrimeSynergy said

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So what's the problem? Bioware won't release information until they fill the item in question is actually ready to be discussed?

Oh, you mean like Blizzard, Valve, Irrational, Atlus, Konami, Bungie, Rockstar, and every other intelligent game company? I don't see the problem here.

They want to control the information that gets spread around about their own game. They don't want things to get out of control or skewed. So why are they getting hate for doing PR the right way?

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 4:28PM Interitus said

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@PrimeSynergy

They control the information but they've lost control of the community. I haven't seen such wild speculation on a game since Spore was announced. The biggest thing hurting the game is everything is so very vague. Even major systems. There are websites dedicated to coming up with "conclusions" based on screenshots and trailers. These conclusions become accepted into the community. And then when something is released that counters that now accepted conclusion it causes a mass panic.

Because of lack of information we're also seeing ideal game syndrome. Where people are basically saying the game will be like _______ where blank is what THEY want to see. So you have a board full of people and everyone has a different idea on how these vague systems work.

I don't want Bioware to announce things, but the method they are currently using doesn't work in the favour. Long periods with lack of information might work better then slight teases which causes the community to overreact every friday.
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Posted: Jan 14th 2011 5:27AM Bongo123 said

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@Interitus

its a freaking game and if anyone gets themselves into a mass panic over some design change frankly you need to wise the fuck up and grow up, whats up with the world these days, you have tech fanboys who go rabid over each other, game geeks going mental because XYX isnt implemented and movie nerds freaking out cause the outfit doesnt match the comic book.... seriously, id like to round the lot of ye up and drop a nuke on youse... if your 18 and under, i can understand these emotions as lets face it, your still a kid but if your in your 20's or god forbid 30's and get on like this over a fucking product, you need committed...
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:28PM Thasri said

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Well something has to be announced soon, a release date hopefully, but something substantial needs to be updated. I mean January is almost half over and the release is projected to be in spring? Other games that have been announced for March already and have a date. Not sure what Bioware is waiting for.

Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:39PM Myopic Aardvark said

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@Thasri September, more thank likely :)
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 1:40PM Myopic Aardvark said

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@Myopic Aardvark *than* likely. Sheesh, my spelling these days.
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Posted: Jan 13th 2011 2:39PM SiML said

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@Myopic Aardvark

Myopic alright! ;-) - Hi Aardy! (ML)
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